Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Towboat “us” (a nautical comedy of errors? Or an ordinary day in the life afloat?)

One of the wonderful things about living in Annapolis is that sooner or later everyone who’s cruising up and down the East Coast comes through here. Sometimes they just stay for a day or two, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes for a season. So even though we’re tied to one spot (for now) by jobs, we are in touch with cruisers from everywhere.
So we were excited to hear from good friends James and Ellen that they were arriving in Annapolis after coming up the ICW from Florida, and we were to look for them and their new-to-them sailboat at about 5:30 Sunday evening. Right on time they hailed us on the VHF as they were coming up Back Creek to anchor. Just as suddenly, a mini-crisis as their engine died, and they were drifting helplessly in the channel at the mouth of the creek. They managed to get their anchor down so they wouldn’t be pushed into the shoal, and called us to ask if we could launch our dinghy to tow them a little way up the creek to one of the City moorings. There they could safely spend the night and fix the engine problems in the morning. As we were lowering our dinghy and engine into the water, our dock-neighbors Richard and Joan came by in their dinghy. “Wanna play bumper boats?” asked Richard. “Actually, if you wouldn’t mind…” we replied, and we recruited them to help as tow well, since they would be able to get to the crippled sailboat sooner than we could. Ever gracious, they said not a word and headed off in the indicated direction. It was only later that I realized they were dressed awfully nicely for a game of dinghy bumper-boats. A few minutes later we got our dinghy launched and followed them down the creek.
When we arrived we found Richard and Joan had already attached their dinghy to one side of the sailboat and were towing it slowly toward safety, while chatting with our friends. We came up to the other side of the sailboat. After a comic scene that briefly had Richard and Joan’s small dinghy towing the sailboat forward while dragging us behind backward, we got straightened out and made a sailboat sandwich with one dinghy on each side. With two dinghies, we made good speed towing … until Richard and Joan’s erstwhile dinghy-towboat ran out of gas! To be fair, they had only intended to take their dinghy across the creek to go to dinner (thus the neat clothing) and they had had more than enough fuel for that. So this time it was our turn to tow the sailboat and second dinghy, while James passed a jerry-jug of gasoline from the sailboat to refuel the first dinghy. Finally our little raftup approached the mooring; our dinghy peeled off to get the mooring line and hand it up to secure the sailboat, and Richard and Joan headed out for dinner.
Next day, problems solved, James and Ellen took their sailboat to Weems Creek where they would spend a few weeks. We had plans to pick them up there by car to go out to dinner. Here at the marina, we can simply step off the boat onto the dock to walk ashore; but at the mooring they lack that convenience, so they would take their dinghy (in yesterday’s heavy rain) from where the boat sat on its mooring to the public boat ramp. Our friends are usually as prompt as only military or retired military folk can be, so we were surprised to be kept waiting. Of course, since we had the advantage of a warm dry car to wait in, having us wait was probably preferable to having them wait for us. We looked up the creek to where their boat was moored. For a moment I thought I saw a small spot motoring near their boat, but as it got closer I saw that instead of our friends, it was a small powerboat with four bedraggled rather subdued looking people aboard, motoring slowly toward the boat ramp. No sign of James and Ellen. But then - mystery solved! I had in fact seen them leave their boat in their dinghy. The small powerboat had had engine trouble and were drifting in the Severn. The recent recipients of a tow themselves, James and Ellen had detoured to help and were towing the small powerboat ashore. That’s the how it is with good deeds. You can’t pay it back, all you can do is pass it on.

No comments:

Post a Comment